Gaming Classroom: The Overly-Hyped Educational Video Game (Part 1 of 3)
Video games, video games, video games. Everyone plays video games. On the TV, on the computer, on the iPhone, iPad, and basically any device that has a screen. I see it everywhere. In New York City where I live, I see adults playing video games on their phones in the subway going to and from work. You can't text or make phone calls down in the subway, so you might as well play video games to pass the time. Or so that's the way it appears to me.
We are creating a species of the human race that have learned to spend most of its leisure time, and time in between other more important responsibilities, to playing games. What about a conversation with your neighbor, or paying attention to your surroundings, or “collecting” your thoughts? These simple aspects of life have been replaced with a new past time called gaming.
Gaming is so ubiquitous that it has already entered the education system as a technique for learning and improving student's test scores.
Gaming In The Classroom
It's not new that video games have entered the education system. But the tide has certainly turned and is beginning an uncontrollable flood into our classrooms. Children are growing up in a supposedly high tech classroom in which they are going to be increasingly more and more surrounded by games. It seems like it's the only thing that grabs their attention these days, so the education system has decided to go with the flow and bring gaming into the classroom.
One gaming system in particular, DimensionU Educational Game Suite, created by Tabulus Digita, has made enormous strides in entering the education system and has achieved some attractive results. Or so it seems...
This article will be a 3-part series discussing the results of three different studies done using the DimensionU game suite on students K-12.
Study #1: Increased Test Scores And A Play On Words
A University of Central Florida study found that students who played the games demonstrated greater gain scores from pre-test to post-test (mean increase of 8.07) than students who did not play the game (mean increase of 3.74);
Wait, Not So Fast!
Certainly, I support any technology that can help students achieve higher test scores. The United States is so far behind in Math, Reading, and Science that even a small improvement is welcome.
But, I'm not satisfied with the results of the studies found above.
Let's read into the studies more deeply. First, the University of Central Florida study used the word “mean” to describe the “average” increase in test scores. Though statisticians debate that there is a huge difference between the meaning of the two words, I will replace “mean” with “average” to make my points more clearly. By using the word “mean” in this study infers that the calculation was made by the total sum of all test scores divided by the number of tests taken.
We're basically talking about the average test scores of all the students. It's Division 101. So, the average test score increased by 8.07% for the students who played the educational video games compared to a 3.74% average increase in test scores for the students that did not play any games.
Let's put this into more practical terms. If we assume that students had an average test score of 75 out of 100, then the students who played the games increased to an average score of 81 compared to a 78 for the students that didn't play games. Not bad but not great either. The truth is that most of the students had very below average grades in Math before the study even began.
So in my opinion, at best the results took a “very low” student in Math and raised him/her to just a “low” student in Math. Still below-average. I would have liked to have seen the study done on students who already achieved passing grades in Math to take part in this study.
Why Video Games Are Not The Answer
Are we really going to put our faith in the future education of our children in video games? That study was done over two 9-week periods. And what the results don't tell you unless you read the full report is that a majority of the students had extremely low grades in Math. 64% were considered “very low” in mathematical skills prior to the study. Only 4% were considered high. That means an 8% increase in math scores would still have kept these students in the “low” part of the skills category.
Teaching Laziness In The Classroom
I support any technique that increases Math scores. Certainly, these below-average students need as much help as they can get. What I fear, is that they will only learn “how to learn” with video games. I don't want video games to become a replacement to other forms of learning that are effective but necessarily in vogue. Plus, technology has already proven to make us lazy. Do we want to teach laziness in the classroom too?
How has mankind expanded knowledge through the millennia? From learning math fundamentals through a video game system? Let's not forget how we all arrived to this point in history. It was because some really smart people contributed ideas to society that we now get to enjoy in this modern civilization that we habitat. These “smart people” weren't born with intelligence, they developed it through work and study.
Where Are The Hard Facts To Backup Gaming In School?
I will also mention that it has been difficult to get hard numerical data for the benefits of gaming on test scores in Math, Reading, and Science. We are still in its infancy. Let's move forward carefully, skeptically, and deliberately. We want to remain mindful that the well-being of future generations is at stake here.
Music and Development
There's Another Solution That Few Want To Pay Attention To
We're searching for solutions in technology for all of our problems including our education system. Well, there is a solution that has been in existence for thousands of years and its benefits can easily be traced as far back as the Renaissance Period.
The solution is to learn a musical instrument. Learning how to read and play music does not break down math and reading into separate video games to learn each subject or task one and a time. Learning music stimulates both left and right hemispheres of the brain at the same time, which accelerates the building of mathematical and linguistic intelligences. I've been reading about how video games improve multi-tasking skills which is great, but, music has been doing this for hundreds of years. It just doesn't have the “sexy” appeal of newer, more technological ways.
In Part 2 of this article, I will discuss in more detail the second study of DimensionU on students' test scores, and also begin to compare the results of studying music on test scores, using hard facts and numerical data to make a clearer comparison.